The Northern Irishman, a central midfielder by trade, was handed his senior debut in September 2014, featuring at centre-back in a 2-1 win over West Ham United.
McNair went on to make 27 appearances in a red shirt, playing primarily at centre-back and occasionally as a full back, before making a permanent switch to Sunderland back in August.
Reflecting on his time at Old Trafford, McNair expressed his dissappoinment at being unable to feature in his favoured position under van Gaal, and insisted that he doesn’t regret leaving Man United.
“I went on the pre-season tour and after I spoke to Mourinho and he said to me he would like me to go out on loan,” McNair said.
“I had a think about it when I was out on the pre-season tour and even a little bit when I was at the Euros, I never wanted to go on loan.
“I was adamant I wanted to go on a permanent move. I spoke to Mourinho for a couple of weeks and basically persuaded him to let me go on a permanent deal.
“I see too many players go out on loan that don’t play. You’re never their player; it’s a loan. I just wanted to go to Sunderland and play in the Premier League every week and that was my thinking behind it. I’ve no regrets.
“I’m not a defender; I’ve never been a defender
“I filled in there a few times. Van Gaal played me there and I was happy to play there for him (but) in the back of mind I always thought, ‘No, this isn’t my position, I know I’m a midfielder’. I don’t play in defence, I’ve not played in defence in ages. I read people still calling me a defender; but I play in midfield for club and country.”
McNair’s uneasiness surrounding the centre-back role was, on several occasions, reflected in the way he conducted himself on the pitch.
He did, of course, produce some stellar displays in a red shirt (his performance against Arsenal, alongside fellow youngster Tyler Blackett, was nothing short of incredible), but the majority of his time at Old Trafford was characterised by an unshakeable jitteriness at the back, like someone who has walked into the wrong lesson at school, sat down, and only realised their mistake once the teacher starts talking.
One can certainly criticise his ability at centre-back (a role he only sporadically occupied at youth level), but his dedication to the cause, his willingness to make the best of his opportunity, can never be questioned.